Mali’s military rulers have said they postponed their first meeting over the transfer of powers due to “organisational reasons”, almost two weeks after removing former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in a coup.
The coup-makers had invited civic groups, political organisations and former rebels to consultations on Saturday, but said in a statement that the meeting was postponed to a later date.
The army officers have promised a transition to civilian rule, though without a timetable. Hours after taking power, they said they would stage elections “within a reasonable time”.
The so-called June 5 Movement, an opposition coalition that in recent months had organised large protests against Keita, had not been invited to participate in Saturday’s meeting.
The protest coalition has demanded the military rulers give it a role in the transition to civilian rule.
After an escalating series of mass protests demanding the president resign over the country’s worsening conflict and alleged corruption, among other issues, young army officers mutinied on August 18, seizing Keita and other government officials.
The coup leaders declared they now governed Mali, saying they acted because the country was sinking into chaos, blaming poor leadership.
The coup shocked Mali’s West African neighbours and ally France, heightening worries over instability in a country already struggling to contain the threat of armed groups, ethnic violence and economic woes.
The 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc suspended Mali from its institutions, shut borders and halted financial flows with the country following Keita’s overthrow.
On Friday, it told the military officers they must transfer power to a civilian-led transitional government immediately and hold elections within a year. In exchange, ECOWAS committed to lifting sanctions gradually as the coup leaders complied with its demands.
Reinforcing its hard line because of concerns about prolonged instability and its potential to undermine the fight against armed groups in the wider Sahel region, the bloc also outlined four main points it wanted to see progress on before sanctions could be gradually lifted.
Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou, who currently chairs ECOWAS, said Mali’s transitional president and prime minister must be civilians, and would be banned from running in the next legislative and presidential elections.
“No military structure should be above the transitional president,” Issoufou said.
ECOWAS also called for the quick establishment of a government that will tackle the various challenges Mali is facing, and in particular, prepare for legislative and presidential elections within 12 months.
A spokesman for the military rulers, Djibrila Maiga, said on Friday the bloc’s decisions were being discussed.
Meanwhile, Mali’s influential imam Mahmoud Dicko – a key player in the mass opposition protests that led to Keita’s overthrow – said on Friday the new military rulers did not have “carte blanche”.
His comments came as a new document published on the Malian government’s official journal said the junta’s head had been effectively invested with the powers of the head of state.